Category Archives: travels

Kansas City: Fourth of July

Last Thursday, we were having lunch at Jeff’s parents’ house, per Thursday tradition. We asked his parents what they were planning for the 4th of July, and they said they’d be driving to Kansas City to visit Jeff’s sister on Sunday, then coming home Monday. Jeff responded, “Okay, we’ll come with you.”

After a few moments of confusion — Really? Are you serious? Could it work? We’re not intruding? — we all agreed that yes, it would be fun to go together!

So on Sunday afternoon, we all piled into my in-laws’ minivan and headed for Kansas City. The drive was so nice — chatting, reading, napping, and generally trying to soak up a few hours of forced relaxation. That evening and the following morning were spent lazily enjoying being in Kristi’s home: meals together, donuts for breakfast, a video for the kids, playtime outside, a walk around the block, and an evening chatting after the kids went to bed. Though brief, it really did feel like vacation! On Monday afternoon we headed for a nearby pool. But it wasn’t just any pool; it was a huge aquatic complex of different pools for different activities — a pool for diving, a pool for swimming laps, a pool for kiddos, a pool for slides, a pool for lying on floating raft things. It was quite impressive, and the kids (and adults) had a blast! Charlie and Lillian discovered some short little fountains at the edge of one of the pools, and I’m pretty sure that was their favorite part.

Once we had exhausted ourselves, we returned to Kristi’s, packed everything up, piled in the van, and headed for home. We drove into town around dusk to a wonderful display of fireworks around town, and stepped out of the van to the thunderous sounds of the Fourth.

We so enjoyed our little getaway and having some time with Jeff’s parents and sister. To Dave and Marilyn, thanks for taking Jeff seriously when he invited all four of us along on your quiet weekend away!

I didn’t take a single picture on the trip, but here’s a recent one of Charlie and Lillian in my parents’ backyard pool:


Kansas City: A visit to the urologist

A few weeks ago we drove to Kansas City for Lillian’s appointment with a urologist. You may know that we visited a urologist several times during Lillian’s first few months, when we still lived in Chicago. That urologist recommended having the upper portion of her left kidney removed — it’s a duplicate draining system that is barely functioning. When we moved to Kansas, I mentioned this to Lillian’s new pediatrician, and he recommended we get a second opinion. Because of health insurance uncertainties, the fact that Lillian is perfectly healthy otherwise and not affected by this kidney issue, and the three-hour drive to the nearest pediatric specialist… it took us twenty months to get that second opinion, but we finally did!

We arrived in KC and drove straight to the hospital. Lillian had an ultrasound in the lab first. She was such a big girl up on that big hospital table — somber and very quiet and still. The tech was friendly and kind and offered Charlie a few toys to keep him entertained.

After the ultrasound, we had quite a while to wait before meeting with the doctor. And then that “quite a while” turned into “a verrrrry long while.” But we busied ourselves with toys and snacks, and the staff were all helpful and apologetic about the wait. Finally we were taken to an exam room, where we waited some more while watching an episode of Sponge Bob that was much too scary for our four- and two-year-olds. Gah!

Our chat with the doctor didn’t really give us any new information, but it helped us think through our options a little better. The ultrasound showed that nothing has really changed since her tests in infancy. Basically the decision is ours: we choose to have the kidney portion surgically removed, or we choose to leave it alone in hopes that it will never be an issue. Both sides have risks, and I really would rather someone just tell us what to do!

As we understand it, if we do the surgery, we face the typical risks of any surgical procedure. On top of that is the recovery, which could be a challenge with a busy toddler. If we don’t do the surgery, we’ll do yearly ultrasounds just to check in on things. But then it will always just be there — this fear of what could happen. If she would ever get a kidney infection, it could be quite serious. The doctor also mentioned that there’s a possibility she could be leaking urine, which we won’t really know until we tackle potty training.

This Thursday we’ll be meeting with Lillian’s pediatrician to discuss the KC appointment and get some further professional input. If we had to make a decision today, we would probably choose surgery. It’s more appealing to schedule a surgery when it’s convenient and calm, rather than to take her in for emergency surgery down the road if something goes wrong.

Now back to our Kansas City trip. We decided to make it an overnight adventure and stay with Jeff’s sister. She had recently moved from her apartment into a house, so it was fun getting to see the new home, go out for pizza, and stay up talking after the kids went to bed. And by the way, the kids were awesome sleepers! The four of us stayed in one room — Charlie on a pile of blankets on the floor, Lillian in her pack n’ play — and the kids were fantastic. They even slept in after Jeff and I were up moving around!

On Saturday we drove to Atchison to visit a monastery that Jeff has been interested in for a while. We made an unexpected pit stop at the Bonner Springs Walmart thanks to tire trouble, but finally we were on the road again. After a delicious lunch at a downtown cafe in Atchison, we found our way to the monastery and had a tour with the very kind guest master. Our kids were loud and a little too comfortable, which made me quite uncomfortable, but overall we had a lovely time there. We were then led (by car) past the birth home of Amelia Earhart, then to a beautiful park just outside of town.

Then back in the car, back to Bonner Springs to drop Kristi off at her car (she left it at Walmart and hopped in with us), then back on the highway for the long drive home.

Little did we know that we’d be returning to Kansas City just two weeks later. More on that soon!

Boonville. This time with the fam.

We recently borrowed my parents’ minivan, packed a few suitcases, and drove off for a weekend in Boonville, Missouri. We were excited to spend a few days with our friends Lucas and Shannon and almost-one-year-old Owen, and just have a change of routine and surroundings.

The trip didn’t disappoint. The drive there felt like it took forever, but that is almost always the case with two kids strapped in carseats for hours at a time.

Boonville had 16 inches of snow before we arrived:

On Saturday, we went out for lunch . . .

. . . and visited Lucas’s workplace.

The boys played in the snow:

We put the kids to bed, then enjoyed a late, grown-up dinner and wonderful conversation. On Sunday, we had the special treat of hearing Lucas preach. Then we just relaxed and ate all day, with a little Super Bowl in the evening.

Then Charlie started puking. We made up a bed for him in the dining room, where he slept until we headed upstairs for bed ourselves:

The poor kid continued throwing up for the next two days. I’ve never seen him so sick. We drove home on Monday, and that must have been one of the most miserable experiences in his short little life.

Save for the stomach bug, our weekend getaway was fantastic. Thanks, Lucas and Shannon, for your stellar hosting skills!

In the two weeks since returning home, we’ve all battled varying degrees of colds and bugs (and canceled too many social plans because of them); we’ve celebrated Grammy’s birthday; I’ve started and finished a proofreading gig; my dad has had back surgery and survived the agonizing first days following; our temperatures have ranged from zero to seventy; I have chatted with friends near and far, and thanked God more than once for the women in my life who really know me, and get me, and love me anyway; Lillian has started saying “Yetsch” while nodding her head emphatically; Jeff and I both got haircuts; and Charlie has figured out that he can do the entire potty process — from turning on the bathroom light to turning it off — all by himself, without even a mention to Mommy or Daddy.

Sigh. Life is full. And rich. And very, very good.

On where I’ve been (Las Vegas edition)

On Sunday, my dad picked me up in Flagstaff and we headed for Vegas. My brother and his wife-to-be had chosen to get married in Las Vegas on 8/9/10, at 11:00. Their wedding was the reason for my trip, and seeing Cassie in Arizona was a wonderful bonus!

On the drive to Vegas, I tried to work on a proofreading project, but I also dozed a bit, chatted with my dad, and enjoyed marveling with him at the distinct changes in the scenery around us:

Suddenly the cars ahead of us were slowing down. Waaaay down. We finally inched our way up to a security checkpoint, and thought we would soon be cruising right along. That was not the case, however, and we finally came upon the cause of the holdup: the Hoover Dam! Neither of us knew beforehand, or even thought to consider, that we’d be crossing it, so we were pleasantly surprised by the tourist experience en route to Vegas. The Dam is quite impressive!

We made it to our destination, finally, after much stress-inducing traffic and a long search for a parking spot.

Heading south on Las Vegas Boulevard:

Our hotel:

We met the families in a restaurant in the hotel: Josh and Nikki and their girls, my mom, my aunt and uncle, and Nikki’s parents and grandparents. After dinner, we set out for the adventures awaiting us at Circus Circus. My aunt and I teamed up for an evening of exploring: the hotel’s mammoth amusement park, the slot machines, a few blocks of the strip, and a couple little shops.

The next morning was the wedding:

And . . . married!

After the ceremony and photos, the wedding party left, and I piled into the van with my parents and aunt and uncle for a delicious cultural experience:

And from there, we drove to the airport to catch my flight home. Here’s one more view of the strip before turning toward the airport:

So there it is: the recap of my twenty-or-so hours spent in Vegas. The whole weekend was fast-paced (and followed by horrible, nausea-inducing, turbulent flights), but I’m so thankful that I was able to go!

Congratulations, Josh and Nikki!

On where I’ve been (Arizona edition)

A mere week and a half after returning from Boonville, I left again for a solo trip to Arizona (to visit my best friend from high school) and Las Vegas (to attend my brother’s wedding). Have I mentioned that Jeff was such a trooper in holding down the fort, and graciously so? He’s pretty amazing.

So I flew into Phoenix on a Saturday morning, the only non-sunny day to hit Phoenix all year (maybe not, but seriously: I was expecting sunshine!). Cassie picked me up, and we drove north toward Flagstaff, chatting the whole way as I oohed and ahhed over the gorgeous scenery. We stopped off in Sedona to have lunch at the Wildflower cafe, poke around in the shops for a while, and visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

(I’m a sucker for a good pun!)

I’m kind of a slacker and didn’t take pictures of our day in Flagstaff. But I assure we, we had a blast! Cassie drove me around campus (she works at Northern Arizona University); we took naps (with the windows open! bliss!); ate the dessert we had purchased at Wildflower Cafe (my huge cupcake gave me a tummy ache for the next two days! That’s what I get for inhaling so much chocolate. But oh, it was delish!); met Cassie’s boyfriend, Chad, at a Thai restaurant for dinner (again, delish! And I got to see lots of downtown Flagstaff while we searched for a parking spot =)); had drinks on the balcony of an old hotel in downtown Flagstaff; watched The Bounty Hunter under blankets in her living room; and went to bed way too late.

My dad (who was driving through on his way to Vegas) met us for brunch the next morning/noon at a fun little greasy-spoon-type joint called The Place. And then Cassie and I said our goodbyes, and I left with my dad for Nevada!

My time in Flagstaff was far too short, but I’m glad it worked out for me to at least go. It was a joy to see Cassie, especially in her own world. I loved seeing her home and her town and her campus, and of course, HER! Cassie and I have known each other since preschool. We’ve experienced seasons of being close, and seasons of not keeping up so well with each other. But for the past few years, we’ve been reading books together and chatting about them on the phone once a week (or trying to — sometimes things get in the way, which we’re fine with. We like to say that “there’s grace” in our friendship when one of us has to cancel!). Cassie is tons of fun, and so very good at asking questions that make me think. She’s one of the smartest girls I know, and I love her to bits!

Stay tuned for the Vegas edition of “On where I’ve been”!

On where I’ve been (Boonville edition)

Y’all. The past month has been one. wild. crazy. ride. And now Jeff says I can’t go anywhere else for a good long time. But that’s okay — I’ve had my fun, and now I’m unashamedly thrilled about staying home.

I’ll dedicate this post to Boonville, Missouri — or, rather, to the girls with whom I reunited there.

After months of back-and-forth deliberations, and then oh-my-gosh-this-is-really-going-to-happen, it actually did happen: a reunion with four of my closest girls from way back in our Vancouver days. Katie, Katie, Grace, Shannon, and I, plus babies Owen and Evelyn, gathered at the lovely historic home of Shannon and Lucas for four-ish days of talking, eating, crying, laughing, eating, catching up, talking, reminiscing, dreaming, eating, and, well, eating. Our time together was lovely and comfortable and refreshing, and I just felt so doggone at home. These friends are truly amazing, each in her own beautiful and unique ways, and at the risk of sounding totally cliche, they challenge me to be my best self — to love more deeply, to laugh more heartily, to be a good mom, and to care about people. And to forget about my selfish self every once in a while. I love these girls, and I’m thankful that our friendship has gone beyond Vancouver’s city limits!

Other girls have posted detailed accounts of the reunion (see Shannon’s blog [all five installments!] and Katie’s blog), so feel free to read all about the good times. I’ll keep mine simple with a few favorite photos.

With Grace, Katie, and Evelyn at the airport:

The lovely abode (the “property,” if you will):

The beautiful babes:

The fun times:

63 Diner, a restaurant I frequented as a kid when my grandma lived near Columbia. It hasn't changed a bit!

The very serious Wii competition

A walk around Boonville

Campus tour while visiting Lucas at work

Lunch at Abuelo's in KC before returning to the airport.

And let’s not forget the photo shoot in our matchy-matchy reunion tees!

Reuniting with the fam (we decided to just take Katie and Baby E home with us):

So girls, we’re gathering again in two weeks, right?! Miss you!


DE-tails? duh-TAILS?

However you choose to say it, here they are. Our time in Vancouver is all blending together in my mind, so I gotta get this out before I forget.

Friday, February 27
My parents drove us to the airport. Charlie didn’t cry at all when Jeff and I left, but I definitely choked up as I watched our car pull away from the curb with my little boy inside. Once inside the airport, we realized how easy traveling can be when there are no children involved! No stroller, no diaper bag, no fussy baby/toddler — just our own little selves to get through security. We made it to our gate with lots of time to kill, so we leisurely read magazines and books, chatted, people-watched, and eventually ate “lunch” at 10:15.

The first flight was uneventful — Jeff read the entire time, I slept through most of it (what luxury!). We had a layover in Seattle, which was the best layover experience I’ve ever had. Cool airport, relaxing atmosphere . . . we just sat by the wall of windows, watching the planes take off and reading our books.

Flying into Vancouver was fun. The views are incredible! Jeff had a window seat on our tiny little prop plane, and he looked out and followed I-5 for most of the flight. The captain pointed out the various mountain ranges to the east, and the islands to the west. I actually got teary-eyed when he mentioned the San Juans.

Our friend Ryan picked us up at the airport. We had just seen him and Katie and Gloria in early January, so it felt strangely normal to be with them again. We settled in at their place (it felt like being home!), and Katie fed us an amazing supper of potato-leek soup and Superstore’s Bake at Home bread (the BEST!). We had invited old friends to come by that evening, so we had a wonderful time reconnecting with the Sartors (and meeting little Isaac), and later some friends from our old church: the Yips, the Fenns, and Randy Hamm. Good, fun, and relaxing — the perfect welcome back to Vancouver.

Jeff and Ryan headed to Queen Elizabeth Park for a game of Frisbee Golf, while Katie and I just hung out at the house. Then we all drove up Main Street, trying to decide where to eat lunch. We ended up at Vera’s for big yummy burgers, then walked the block or two to JJ Bean so that Jeff could feed his addiction. Oh, it was all so familiar! We decided to just wander on Main for a bit, so we walked up to Broadway before turning around back toward the car. This was mine and Jeff’s old neighborhood — it was thrilling and surreal to walk along the same stretch of shops that used to be mere blocks from our home. Most of it was the same, but there were a few buildings that looked brand new and unfamiliar. We realized that when we left almost two years ago, those had been construction sites.

Saturday afternoon was lazy: I took a nap, Jeff read, and I’m pretty sure the Cochrans did something equally relaxing. Then we all sat around their kitchen table for a long time, discussing worship music while Gloria had supper. Oh man, she’s adorable! Mealtimes with her are a lot of fun. Once Baby G was in bed, the four of us got snazzied up a bit and drove to the Fish House in Stanley Park for a fancy dinner (don’t worry — Israel was at home with Gloria). We had coupons that couldn’t be used until 9pm, so we just walked around the park until then. What a wonderful time with friends! During this little walk, we had a sweet conversation about how much we value our friendship. And not just the fact that Ryan and Jeff are friends, and Katie and I are friends. But that the FOUR of us, all together, love one another and really treasure being together.  Our meal was perfect: delicious food, great service, and the ease of conversation with old friends.

We almost overslept. Jeff woke me up at 10:00 and said, “We gotta go.” The Cochrans were already gone to Ebenezer for the morning, so Jeff and I just rushed around getting ready. We were about to walk out the door when we realized we didn’t know where to find keys for Ryan and Katie’s car. Lots of frantic snooping around the house ensued. Finally Jeff walked over to their church, up to the front pew in the middle of the service, and got the key from Katie. =) We drove to Tenth Avenue Church, where we used to attend and where I had worked for over two years. Wow, how things have changed! We had a great morning there, reuniting with some old friends, touring new and/or rearranged areas of the building, reminiscing, and worshiping with that community that is still so passionate and thriving.

After the service, we walked a few blocks to Pad Thai for lunch. We had been dreaming of this yummy, super-cheap Thai food for weeks, so we were hugely disappointed to see that they were closed! Because we had our hearts (and stomachs) set on Thai, we drove to Cambie and had lunch at Thai Away Home, a delicious backup option. We then drove to Solly’s on Main Street and purchased a half-dozen cinnamon buns, the yummiest you’ll ever eat!

The rest of the day we shared with good friends from Tenth. First we spent a couple hours with Randy and Hannah and their kids, Brendan and Miranda. While living in Vancouver, we grew close with this family on several levels: Randy and I worked together at the church; Jeff and Hannah were often on worship team together; and we occasionally babysat for Brendan and Miranda. It was crazy to see them so grown up now — taking ballet classes, playing hockey, learning piano, building Lego ships and trucks, etc.

We then headed to the home of Marcus and Alicia, friends from our old church small group. SO great to see them! Alicia and I had a neat friendship after our babies, Charlie and Sophia, were born on the same day by the same doctor. We lived only a few blocks from each other, so Alicia and I spent many of those early days going on walks together with our teeny-tiny babies. Last Sunday evening, we shared a wonderful supper with them, and were soon joined by another couple from the small group, Kevin and Karla and their Baby #2, Elora. It’s always a special treat to reconnect with people with whom you’ve shared life in a deep way.

This was the day of experiencing Vancouver a little more. Jeff and I hopped on the Fraser St. bus, then took the B-line to Regent College, which was the whole reason we ever lived in Vancouver to begin with. It’s changed a lot since we lived there, and we only recognized a couple of people, but it was still great to stop by. We got a chance to sit awhile with Richard Thompson, my first boss at the church, who now works at Regent. Neat man, and so easy to chat with.

Next we got to walk a bit through the Point Grey neighborhood as we made our way to Jeremy and Liesel’s house. Liesel was/is due with their first baby any day now, so it was an exciting time to chat with them. If you haven’t already, little Baby Rios, come quickly!

Next was a long, lovely walk to 4th Avenue, where we got on the bus for Kits. Jeff and I used to love lazy Saturday afternoons of window shopping in Kitsilano. We were never trendy enough to really fit in there, but that didn’t stop us. On this particular day, we met up with the Cochrans, grabbed a bite to eat, and just wandered for a while. The boys headed to Zulu Records, Jeff’s favorite music store of all time, and Katie, Baby G, and I went to maternity stores and boutique baby shops. =)

Monday night, our last night in town, was low-key at the Cochrans. We played dominoes, as per tradition — we were much too tired to play the entire game, but much too stubborn to quit!

The morning of farewell. Ryan cooked us up a yummy pot of oatmeal, and Katie and Gloria drove us to the airport. We had a non-stop (yay!!) flight back to Chicago, which was long and without incident. I tried to sleep, and did some, but also read a bit, attempted a crossword puzzle, and just sat there, contemplating life and home and friends.

I asked Jeff, “Where do we even belong?” I started feeling a bit stuck. In a good and positive and healthy way, returning to Vancouver provided a sense of closure for us. Yes, we miss the city like crazy, and yes, we constantly asked ourselves, “WHY don’t we live here anymore?” But it isn’t really home anymore. We’ve moved on, for better or worse, and our church and our neighborhood and our friends have moved on too. And yet . . . Chicago, while there are things and people here that we value and are grateful for, still cannot bear the term “home” for us. But those are thoughts for another day.

So that was our trip! A wonderful, much-needed retreat. We had a blast, and Charlie had a blast with his Nana and Gramps, and Nana and Gramps had the time of their lives. And I hope the Cochrans had a great time too! This might just have to be a regular vacation for us.